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UK approves first new deep coal mine in 30 years

08 December 2022

The UK approved its first new coal mine in decades on December 7 to the disdain of critics who say it will hinder efforts to meet climate targets. The mine, known as Woodhouse Colliery, will be located underground on a brownfield site to the south west of Whitehaven in West Cumbria, northwest England. The project is being developed by West Cumbria Mining at a cost of £165m and will extract coking coal for the steel industry.

Image: West Cumbria Mining
Image: West Cumbria Mining

Plans for the deep coal mine, which is expected to create around 500 jobs, were first unveiled in 2014. The project has been criticised by opposition parties, climate activists and even the UK government’s own independent climate advisory board. The fate of Woodhouse Colliery has been unknown for the last two years since Cumbria County Council granted planning permission approval for a third time in 2020 and the project was put on hold ahead of COP26 in 2021.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove approved Woodhouse Colliery in a letter in which he agreed with the planning inspector’s decision to approve the mine.

In a statement, West Cumbria Mining said it was delighted with the decision: “The decision of the Secretary of State, which is supported by the Planning Inspector following on from last year’s planning inquiry, means the project can now move forwards to deliver the world’s first net zero mine supplying the critical steel industry with a high-quality metallurgical coal product.

“We look forward to taking the project to the next stage of delivery and jobs creation and thank all of those in West Cumbria and across Britain who have supported the project throughout.”

According to the plans, the majority of coal produced at the site will be exported to Europe with more than 80% forecast to be sent to an export terminal in east England after five years.

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